Engaging, Educational, Entertaining: Creating a Food Safety Culture draws dynamic food safety professionals, showcases MSU campus highlights

Andrea C. Sexton
Creating a Food Safety Culture group photo
Creating a Food Safety Culture group photo with Sparty!

Thirty-four food safety professionals visited MSU’s campus May 13-16 for Creating a Food Safety Culture, an executive education seminar taught by Frank Yiannas, Vice President of Food Safety, Wal-Mart, USA. The dynamic presentations and activities drew from Yiannas’s book Food Safety Culture: Creating a behavior-based food safety management system. 

It quickly became clear that Creating a Food Safety Culture (CFSC) would be an engaging two and a half days. At the CFSC welcome reception, the buzz of conversation among the participants - who represented 6 countries and 22 organizations including Cargill, Sargento, The Hershey Company, and The Coca-Cola Company - sounded more like a reunion than a room of new classmates.

Jokes from the previous evening punctuated formal introductions on Wednesday morning, but lightheartedness quickly shifted to classroom focus when Yiannas’s lessons began. Engaging, educational, and entertaining – this was the tone of the MSU Online MS in Food Safety’s Creating a Food Safety Culture Executive Education.

Yiannas’s Wednesday and Thursday sessions introduced participants to evidence-based models of behavior change and explained how using these paradigms can create a “continuous model of food safety culture.” Periodically, Yiannas challenged the CFSC participants to apply their learning using fictitious case studies. Yiannas encouraged everyone to join him in giving feedback as teams of participants practiced implementing each step of the continuous food safety model: setting expectations, creating programs for education and training, planning how to communicate, establishing goals and accountability, measuring outcomes, determining consequences, and returning to expectations to begin the cycle again. Visit our YouTube Channel to see an example of their work!

During the day the CFSC participants engaged with the best expertise available on food safety culture, and by night they experienced the best of Michigan State University’s campus. On Wednesday evening the group toured and dined in the renowned Eli & Edyth Broad Museum, featuring contemporary art exhibits by local and internationally-acclaimed artists. On Thursday, Sparty himself entertained the CFSC participants, program faculty, and alumni who joined for a “tailgate” themed dinner at the Huntington Club in Spartan Stadium. The tailgate featured footage of MSU’s Rose Bowl win, lawn games, and ice cream from the MSU Dairy Store for dessert. By the end of Thursday’s dinner event, the camaraderie built throughout the program inspired an impromptu musical performance to conclude the evening.

The final half-day of the program featured guest lectures by faculty from the Online MS in Food Safety Program: Food Fraud (John Spink, PhD), Food Safety Modernization Act (Neal Fortin, JD), and Leadership During Change (Keith Bezant-Niblett, DBA).

Participant responses to the program have been overwhelmingly positive. Many individuals have expressed interest in returning for future executive education opportunities through MSU’s Online Master of Science in Food Safety, and recommending these opportunities to their colleagues. Reviews include:

“Everything was great. The course content was exceptional. The speakers were great. The logistics and evening activities were very well planned. Everything was very well planned and executed.”

“The highlights of this week were meeting Frank Yiannas and having the opportunity to break into groups and to apply the concepts. Networking with the attendees was also a nice benefit of the class. The meals and activities were also very nice.”

“As a current student, being on campus and interacting with the professors and staff in person is a great benefit. Also, the interaction with the other students face to face is really valuable".

"Everything was wonderful. You were perfect hosts.”

“The examples that were given during the seminar by the people in attendance were great. You can do that same thing over email but, it just doesn't seem to be as effective as being able to do it in person.”

Plans for future programs are not yet set, but watch for information in our newsletter, on our website, and through social media on Twitter and Facebook.